Me & My Boats: Fiona Sims
- Credit: Archant
She’d done her research and bought a second-hand boat, now all she had to do was get it to the marina. How hard could it be?
Words and pictures: Fiona Sims
I started looking up everything about living on a narrowboat for my boss. He loves fishing and was thinking about getting one, but wanted to know all the downsides first.
While doing the research I began to think, “I can cope with all this”, and when I looked up prices, I though, “I can afford that”. That was that – I started browsing for second-hand boats. I knew a few things to look for. I wanted a semi-trad or traditional stern and I didn’t want to feel cramped inside. I looked for hours online and walked along the canal so I can see inside a few boats for sale.
Finally, I found one that was exactly what I wanted. She was lovely and spacious for her size and had a more open layout than most boats I saw. She even had a lovely name, The Tudor Rose – a lovely British name.
The seller was going to service the engine before I took her. So, a couple of weeks later, my mum, my boss and I went to pick her up and bring her to my new marina, a journey we were told would take a couple of hours.
Little did we know...
- 1 Fire-damaged lock keepers cottage on Oxford Canal up for sale!
- 2 Boat test: “Oyster Catcher” the permanent house boat
- 3 Brand new boating show for 2022: BoatLife Live!
- 4 Waterways adventure: Navigating the Ribble Link
- 5 Canal heritage spotter: narrow gauge railway tracks
- 6 10 of the best pubs along: the Rivers Lee and Stort
- 7 Cruise guide: Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line
- 8 Cruise Guide | Rivers Lee and Stort
- 9 Stretching your narrow boat: process and advice
- 10 5 stunning narrowboat holiday routes in the UK
We started the journey happily. The seller took us through the first lock, as he told us how it, and the boat, all worked. And then he left us and we were on our own, steering the most expensive thing I have ever bought. My new home.
I had learned to sail as a teenager and my boss had a lot of experience with boats as he grew up by the sea. My mum had been on a canal boat holiday in her youth, so she had an idea of how the locks worked.
At first all was going great. We remembered to pass boats on the right, didn’t get stuck in the locks, kept the boat the right side of the cil marker. We met a lovely couple taking their boat back to Birmingham who went through five locks with us, then we went on alone.
My boss and I took turns on the tiller, while the other did the locks with my mum helping. Then, on a long straight bit, we let my mum have a go on the tiller, and she steered us straight in to a tree! One with prickly branches that hung over the canal. We had to reverse and try to push off with sticks to get the boat into the main drag again. Needless to say, we did not let my mum take the tiller again.
The journey continued. A few hours passed and, consulting the guidebook, we found we were only halfway there. We tried to pick up the pace a bit, but when we did that, the engine started overheating so we had to pull over and wait until it cooled.
We chugged along for a while, but as we came out of another lock, I pulled into the non-towpath side of the canal to save my boss walking over the lock gates again. A very bad call, as it turned out. On that side, there was another channel branching off the canal and it had a strong current.
My boat was trapped in the current and we could not get it away. There was a floating barrier across it so we did not get swept down the channel sideways, thankfully, but we could not turn the boat to get going again as we were in the current and jammed against the barrier.
We had no boat poles and the engine was overheating. We tried pulling it backwards with a rope, we even had some passers-by pulling the rope, too, but all in vain.
After about half an hour, some men from the canalside pub or social club appeared. We explained our predicament and they started climbing down the wall (about 10ft) and on to the moored boats below. They called us to throw them our bow rope, and they pulled us forwards by walking along the moored boats, until we were in a more or less straight line. Then we could engage our engine and pull away. As we started to pull away, they threw us our rope back and we called back our thanks.
After that, we carried on without incident, apart from the engine overheating every 20 minutes. We spent almost more time pulled in waiting for the engine to cool down than we did making progress. We later discovered this was because, when the boat was being serviced, the engineer left a valve open so once the water heated up, it leaked out and we had no water in our water cooling system for the engine.
We eventually arrived at the marina well past its closing time. We knew roughly where we should be so we went around and tied up. The boat was safe, but we still had to get out of the marina to our car, with the gates locked and use without a key. Three hours after closing time, we wandered around the marina until we saw a boat with lights on and explained our problem to the boaters inside, and they kindly let us out. We drove home happy, but tired.
Our journey took seven hours, rather than the expected two, and we had some adventures on the way. The moral of the story is: when it comes to boats, expect the unexpected.
Thank you Fiona for sending in your story.
Now it’s your turn to tell us about the boats in your life. If you would like to be featured in Me & My Boats in a future issue of Canal Boat magazine, send your story (about 1,000 words) and photographs (don’t worry, we’ll return them!) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s used, you’ll win £100!
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